Kitchen labour of love

  • Food
  • Saturday, 07 Oct 2017

Sharing? There is no sharing when it comes to khao soi ... Cyril is protective of his favourite dish, as Chef Korn (right) comes to inspect his kitchen mentee Kai's work, and she looks on in amusement.

When one of your best friends is a chef, it only makes sense to learn some great recipes from him – even more so when it’s a recipe for your husband’s favourite dish!

Home cook Yupadee Quenneville, 43, met chef Trakool Yodsuk – Chef Korn of Erawan, that bastion of progressive Thai cuisine – when both worked together on a project with the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur. They soon became fast friends.

“We see each other almost every day now, since I moved even closer to his restaurant in DC Mall,” said Yupadee, known as Kai to friends and family. “We understand each other very well, without having to say too much. He is like my brother!”

Originally from Haadyai, in southern Thailand, Kai and husband Cyril Quenneville, 38 – as well as their rescued street cats, Coco and Champagne – have called KL home for seven years now. She used to work in a logistics company, but has now taken a break to explore art – painting in acrylics, on canvas and now porcelain – and plans to start a project on French and Thai food, with a French teacher friend.

khao soi
Sharing? There is no sharing when it comes to khao soi ... Cyril is protective of his favourite dish, as Chef Korn (right) comes to inspect his kitchen mentee Kai's work, and she looks on in amusement.

Thai-born Kai loves both eating and cooking, whether it’s for Cyril – “I like to cook what he likes to eat, but often in a healthier way to positively influence his eating!” she said – or when entertaining friends, as the couple frequently does.

“Cooking is a way to show love, and my husband appreciates it every time he eats a home-cooked meal – you can tell from his face even,” she said. They often cook together, but “he does his own thing, I do mine and then we put it all together!” said Kai.

“However, I prefer to cook things that don’t involve too much fuss,” she said. On her own, she likes making simple healthy dishes, like salads, or rice with stir-fried vegetables.

“Or I go to see Korn and say ‘I’m hungry’!”

She likes making French recipes in particular, she says, which she can prepare and bake in the oven, and she actually started out making desserts, finding that they bring out her artistic side.

She finds much of Thai cuisine quite involved and more labour-intensive in comparison. Still, there’s one dish she makes an exception for: khao soi.

The northern Thai laksa dish has a combination of crispy, deep-fried egg noodles, and springy, thin egg noodles in a gravy that Chef Korn says is reminiscent of local curry mee, but with Thai herbs added.

khao soi
Cooking is about love and laughter for Cyril and Kai ... and so is eating together.

A bowlful is then served with a plethora of condiments, including pickled mustard greens, chopped shallots, coriander leaves, an intense chilli oil and lime halves for squeezing over.

A popular street food dish in northern Thailand, khao soi isn’t commonly found in restaurants here. Cyril, who is French, is a huge fan of the dish: “You have the sweet, the crunchy, the creamy, the wonderful smell, the soft noodles, the colours, it’s beautiful!” he said.

Kai cooked the dish according to Chef Korn’s recipe, but adds her own practical advice: “If you don’t want to make the khao soi paste yourself, you can buy a ready-made paste, or mix Thai red curry paste with a teaspoon of meat curry powder.”

She also decided to reflect her harmonious and happy household by adding French starters and a dessert that reflects influences from both East and West – creme brulee spiked with teh tarik and turned into a semifreddo. “Or you can leave out the tea powder and have it plain,” said Kai.

After all, cooking is always about love.

This simple quinoa salad provides a pop of colour and flavour on the table.


Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow it to stand for a while, then fluff with a fork.

Toss the quinoa with the rest of the ingredients.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a small bottle and shake well.

Drizzle dressing over the salad just before serving.

tomato farcies
Stuffed vegetable farcies, a recipe Kai learnt from her French side of the family, served Thai-style.


Scoop out the insides of the tomatoes (or onions, bell peppers, eggplant or zucchini), so that there is a hollow in the middle. Chop the insides and reserve.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Mix all the rest of the ingredients together, along with the reserved insides. Place the stuffing into the hollow of each vegetable, place in a baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes.

khao soi
Khao soi, with its array of condiments.


Place the curry paste ingredients in a food processor and blitz till fine.

In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of coconut milk over medium-high heat. When the coconut milk begins to simmer, add the curry paste and water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has thickened and reduced.

Place the remaining coconut milk in another saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer, then add in the curry mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Stir the palm sugar into the stock. Taste and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce if needed.

Place the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry the thick noodles until golden brown and crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Boil the thin egg noodles, according to the package directions, until al dente. Rinse under cold water and set aside.

Divide the chicken, soup and noodles among 4 bowls and serve with the accompaniments.

creme brulee
These little creme brulee bites are wonderfully moreish and quite hassle-free to make, too.


Preheat oven to 100°C.

Place milk and cream into a pot, then add vanilla seeds and bring to a boil.

Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let it sit for 30 to 40 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar till thick and creamy. Pour in the warm cream and milk mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon. Pour mixture into a silicon mould.

Place the mould in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool, then freeze for at least 1 hour.

Unmould the mini creme brulees and place each on a biscuit. Sprinkle the top of each with a little sugar and caramelise with a kitchen blowtorch. Serve immediately.

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Kitchen labour of love


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